1916: The Irish Rebellion

1916: The Irish Rebellion

Narrated by Liam Neeson
Shown on 28th March 2016 on BBC4
On BBC iPlayer till 28th April

Reviewed by John Owen

With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising the historicity of the event the prototype of the Bolshevik revolution itself, a dry run so to speak, with all the harsh lessons and mistakes analysed to the core by the remnants going on to forming the bulk of the GPGB membership.

In fact the predominance of Irish activist in the revolutionary labour movement the founding of the communist party both here and in the United States are a testament to the epoch-making game changer the Easter rising was.

A collection of dreamy nationalist reviving Gaelic language and culture loving visionaries’ poets writer artist and extreme nationalist forming their own militias with the solidly working class contingents of Connolly’s socialists leaning ICA or Irish citizens army. Several 1000 all told.

The North or Ulster had been militarised openly with Lord Carson arming ½ million men mostly rabid Protestants resisting the home rule bill, only the 1st world war bleached off some off that movement and open clash.

Despite being buried in a mountain of the filth and calumny of the British press, totally pro imperialist: characterised it as a crazy event unlike some of the 200,000 conscripted normal Irishmen fighting in trenches for the ruling class. Some has chosen or dared not to support either king or Kaiser but national sovereignty and independence. Like Murdoch’s rags, distortion of the happenings was hiding a real fear of the British ruling class; the national rising caught the British on the hop and completely flummoxed them. The critical mistakes of one section of the Irish republican brotherhood, over cautious, calling off the rising as cold feet and nerves getting the better of them.

Sending totally contradictory messages, at the last minute, countermanding the military orders of Pearse, Connolly and co dooming it, and confining it largely to a Dublin affair. The British Empire savagely engaged in the slaughter of the Somme let some of that fury loose on the streets of Dublin and the bloody reprisals woke up a stunned population to the full effects of the rising, seething with rage: the ruling classes cold blooded execution of Connolly strapped to a chair from his hospital bed.

Patrick Pearse’s uttering “what we have done will live on forever not what the conquerors do.” Actually foreshadowed the whole developments of the civil war, the battles of the Free-Staters and the division of the north being ratified as a short term solution to independence.

Footage and lively interviews with old timers’ veterans picking the bones and even the daughter of James Connolly recalling the day her father told her mother to “make a brave face so as not to unman him before the firing squad”.

Like all great risings and revolutions precedents and follow-ups were quick to be highlighted from the commune to the October revolution in Russian which had 4 or 5 years following on from a successful revolution. Echoing perhaps Lenin that epoch of wars and revolutions was upon us.

The aftermath a divided country literally with protestant under siege in the north and the republican south divided over the Collins treaty Eamon de Valera heading one wing opposed to Collins acceptance of the north under British rule.

What is sure the Indian peaceful opposition under Ghandi, changed to armed struggle led by Indian nationalist as the empire was slowly broken up. Lessons were soaked up and learnt by the oppressed around the world bitter pills to swallow.

Coincidentally the anniversary of the great poll tax rebellion 1990 that hastened the demise of Thatcher and led to full scale rioting on Trafalgar Square Britain was one step from revolution.

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